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The grandfather of puzzle games, Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris is back. Since its release in 1984 it’s graced all manner of device; from consoles and handhelds, to cellphones and portable music players to graph calculators and even oscilloscopes.

Everyone reading this has at some point played Tetris or one of its many variants and are likely well acquainted with the classic falling block gameplay. Tetris Party Deluxe – available on store shelves for the Wii and DS tomorrow – is essentially a packaged, retail version of the Tetris Party available on Wiiware. Does it bring with it enough supplementary bells and whistles to warrant a purchase?

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For purists, the classic marathon game remains available – and untouched – offering you the thrill of strategically placing the falling blocks as quickly and for as long as your eyes, hands and head allow. It’s the new game modes and its focus on multiplayer though that separates this from any other Tetris release, so let’s take a look at the new modes.

Bombliss is a mode that’s been seen in previous iterations; It does nothing more than add timed bombs to classic Tetris. It does add a bit of frantic panic to multiplayer games, but beyond that it’s pretty dull.

Master is for those who are..well..masters. It’s a brain-numbingly difficult mode in which the pieces don’t fall as you’d expect. Instead they appear, give you mere moments to position and place, and then instantly fall to the bottom of the grid. Unless you have lightning quick reflexes, and an equally keen engineering mind, this will cause you much frustration.

Another somewhat classic mode is Sprint which, as the name implies, has you racing to complete a set number of lines as quickly as possible. It’s pretty basic stuff, but trying to beat your own previous time, or competing against another player are both strangely addictive. From here on out though, the modes become more estranged – and are largely hit and miss.

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Field Climber is easily my favourite of the new modes – and one of the most cleverly inventive twists on the Tetris formula. Your goal is to get your stick figure mountain climber to the top of the screen, by constructing a climbable mountain out of falling tetronimoes. He can only climb one block at a time, so actually clearing lines is discouraged in this more methodical approach to Tetris. You’re scored on how quickly it takes for you to reach the peak.

Shadow mode reminds me a little of classic arcade game Qix (of which Gal’s Panic is a clone) mixed in with Nintendo’s Picross. In it you’ll use irregular shapes – different from the traditional tetriminos – with which you must complete a picture puzzle that appears as a shadow in the background. It’s a slower, more cerebral mode than most Tetris varieties. If you’ve played the original PSP Lumines’ challenge modes, you’ll know what to expect.

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Stage Racer is an interesting departure. There is nothing to build – instead you’re given a single tetronimo and must race it through a 400 line course, with the goal being to reach the end in the shortest amount of time. It’s strange to consider Tetris to be a racing game, but it is now – and once again besting your own scores is alluringly addictive.

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Curiously, Tetris Party Deluxe also offers Wii Balance board support – and a handful of modes that utilise it. You’re presented with a much smaller playing area, using your body to control the pieces. Leaning left or right turns the falling blocks, while leaning forward or backwards drops them. The balance board controls end up being rather imprecise, but make for a quick, silly diversion. Still support for the device is a gimmicky experiment, and certainly not something to buy a balance board for.

Thankfully, almost all of the new mechanics can be used in up to 4 player multiplayer, online and offline. There are co-op modes, including  a 2v2 co-op modes reminiscent of Magic the Gathering’s 2-headed giant. With the inclusion of all of this, Tetris Party Deluxe makes for a surprisingly fun party game and as it’s a game with such well known core mechanics, pretty much anyone can jump in and play.

It’s a pity though that although the developers have included a fair amount of substance, there could have at least been a bit of flash. Reviewers with a penchant for retro gaming regularly denounce style over substance – but there’s hardly anything here above bare-bones presentation. Each mode has a single music track and background image. You can choose which of the songs and images you want displayed through your session, but that’s about it, really. Granted, Tetris doesn’t really need more than coloured blocks on a board, but a little bit of flair would have been nice.

As somebody that’s generally considered a “core” gamer I should have had my fill of Tetris decades ago, but I have to admit I had a lot of fun with the new modes. If you haven’t picked up a new version of Tetris in a long while, this comes highly recommended. If you already own Tetris Party on WiiWare, there’s not enough new compelling content to justify a purchase.

Scoring:

Gameplay: 9.0

It’s classic Tetris – one of the most intrinsically perfect games, plus more – including a dearth of multiplayer options

Presentation: 4.0

While Tetris is  a visually basic game, a lot more could have been done with this game’s presentation. It’s mostly quite bland.

Sound: 6.0

Single looping tracks can become quite tiresome.

Value: 7.0

While there is a cheaper alternative to be found on Wiiware, the fact that the Nintendo Shop doesn’t work here without jumping through hoops makes this worthwhile. There’s more Tetris here than you’d care to shake a stick at, plus it all works in multiplayer.

Overall: 7.5 (not an average)

I had way more fun revisiting Tetris than I rightly should have. If you’re a fan of the classic puzzler, this is a no brainer.

[Reviewed on Wii]

Last Updated: September 9, 2010

Tetris Party Deluxe
Summary
7.5

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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